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Why Elbow Grease Is The Best… And Safest Cleaner

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Antibacterial Soap
Courtesy Dr Dave Hnida

Antibacterial Soap
Courtesy Dr Dave Hnida

Dr. Dave Hnida By Dr. Dave Hnida
CBSDenver.com Blogger
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Recent Blog Entries From Dr. Dave Hnida


Sounds like if you need a good, effective wash, you’d want to go with an antibacterial soap.

Well, that may be the exact opposite of what you want to do. And if the FDA has their way, you may not even have a choice in cleansers in the days to come.

The Agency has given manufacturers one year to prove their “anti-bacterial” products are safe and effective. Otherwise, down the drain they go.

The issue really has to do with an ingredient called Triclosan — a chemical that was first introduced commercially as an insecticide decades ago, and then became widely used in hospitals. It then made its way into a variety of consumer soaps and cleansers.

If a product today says “antibacterial,” there’s an 80 percent chance it contain triclosan.

But here’s the rub: No. 1, does this stuff really help? Second, does it have potentially harmful side effects — as some claim — such as birth defects? And third, does it encourage the proliferation of resistant superbugs?

Whatever your thoughts, or that of the FDA, or even the soap manufacturers — the simple fact remains that a good scrub under running water remains the best way to get bacterial, viruses and other gross living things off your hands.

The soap is simply there as a lubricant. It supposedly helps germs “slide” off of the skin as you wash. But it does little more — and it sounds like it certainly doesn’t kill the germs as they are washed off down the drain.

The simple rule is simple. A warm wash under running water for at least 20 seconds gets rid of the bulk of germs. Concentrate under and around the nails as you do this. And to keep your watch from getting wet, you can time out the 20 seconds to the ditty “Happy Birthday” sung twice. Or for those of us with bad voices, hummed twice.

The whole point is strikingly simple: triclosan may not be all that helpful. In fact, there are concerns it is harmful.

The really harmful thing is not washing your hands — soap or no soap.

Please don’t forget to do it often, especially during the cold and flu season. Or any other season, for that matter.

Rub a dub-dub.

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